Hart - That All Shall Be Saved

David Bentley Hart  - That All Shall Be Saved. Heaven, Hell, and Universal Salvation
According to a legend recounted in the Apophthegmata Patrum, or Sayings of the Fathers-a name shared in common by various ancient Christian collations of anecdotes about the Egyptian "desert fathers" of the fourth century- the holy man Abba Macarius (c. 300-391) was walking alone in the wilderness one day when he came upon a human skull lying beside the path and, as he casually moved it aside with his staff, it all at once began to utter words.
Astonished, Macarius asked it to identify itself, and it obliged. It told him that in life it had been a pagan high priest who had tended the idols and performed the rites of the people that had once dwelled in those climes. It said also that it recognized Macarius, and knew him to be a bearer of the Spirit, one whose prayers actually had the power temporarily to ease the sufferings of the damned.

David Bentley Hart - That All Shall Be Saved. Heaven, Hell, and Universal Salvation

Yale UNIVERSITY PRESS, New Haven and London 2019 - 229
ISBN 978-0-300-24622-3

David Bentley Hart - That All Shall Be Saved. Heaven, Hell, and Universal Salvation



  • Framing the Question
  • Doubting the Answers


  • First Meditation: Who Is God? The Moral Meaning of Creatio ex Nihilo
  • Second Meditation: What Is Judgment? A Reflection on Biblical Eschatology  
  • Third Meditation: What Is a Person? A Reflection on the Divine Image  
  • Fourth Meditation: What Is Freedom? A Reflection on the Rational Will


  • Final Remarks  
  • Acknowledgments and Bibliographical Notes

David Bentley Hart  - That All Shall Be Saved. Heaven, Hell, and Universal Salvation - Introduction

There have been Christian "universalists" -Christians, that is, who believe that in the end all persons will be saved and joined to God in Christ- since the earliest centuries of the faith. In fact, all the historical evidence suggests that the universalist faction was at its most numerous, at least as a relative ratio of believers, in the church's first half millennium. Augustine of Hippo (354-430) referred to such persons as misericordes, "the merciful-hearted," an epithet that for him apparently had something of a censorious ring to it ( one, I confess, that is quite inaudible to me). In the early centuries they were not, for the most part, an especially eccentric company. They cherished the same scriptures as other Christians, worshipped in the same basilicas, lived the same sacramental lives. They even believed in hell, though not in its eternity; to them, hell was the fire of purification described by the Apostle Paul in the third chapter of 1 Corinthians, the healing assault of unyielding divine love upon obdurate souls, one that will save even those who in this life prove unworthy of heaven by burning away every last vestige of their wicked deeds.
The universalists were not even necessarily at first a minority among the faithful, at least not everywhere. The great fourth-century church father Basil of Caesarea (c. 329-379) once observed that, in his time, a large majority of his fellow Christians (at least, in the Greek-speaking Eastern Christian world that he knew) believed that hell was not everlasting, and that all in the end would attain salvation. This may have been hyperbole on his part, but then again it may very well not have been; and, even if he was exaggerating, he could not have been exaggerating very much, as otherwise the remark would have sounded silly to his contemporaries, whereas he stated the matter as something almost banal in its obviousness. Over time, of course, in large part as a result of certain obvious institutional imperatives, the voices of the universalists would dwindle away to little more than a secretive whisper at the margins of the faith, except in a few of the sunnier quarters of Christendom (such as the East Syrian church). And it was not, perhaps, until the nineteenth century that the tide of opinion on this matter began, if only ever so slightly, to turn back again.


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